Elite-level tribute 1932 Ford Deluxe coupe – BEARS 32

Josh Cronin's '32 Ford coupe built in his dad's honour

Photographers: Mitch Hemming

What started as a neat father ‘n’ son project turned into an elite-level tribute when Josh’s father passed away

This article on Josh’s ’32 Coupe was originally published in issue 18 of the Street Machine Hot Rod magazine

IT WAS supposed to be a tidy little street car,” says Josh Cronin. “It was never meant to be this good.”

Mind you, the motivation for taking this ’32 coupe this far was mighty powerful. After ‘Bear’ (short for Koala Bear, the nickname given to Josh’s father by his family) fell ill, Josh and his partner Tammi moved in to help him out. Shortly after that, Bear got too crook to work, giving him plenty of time to think, which prompted him to approach Josh about the two of them building a hot rod together.

“The bodystyle, the billet wheels and the blown engine were all Dad,” Josh says. “However, I chose the colour; I wanted something simple and classy,” Nailed it!

“I loved the idea; it had always been his dream car,” Josh says. “But I’m from mini-trucks; I had no idea where to start. Fortunately, Dad had a pretty good idea of what he wanted.”

After asking around a bit, Bear and Josh ended up at C&W Components.

The colour might be unusual for a hot rod, but Josh believes it’s one of the main things behind the success of the car: “I’ve had people stop me in the street wanting to know the paint code,” he says

“They built the rolling chassis and three-inch chopped body, which I love, except at the traffic lights,” Josh laughs. “I was happy to sit back and let Dad run with it, let him make all the decisions – like the nine-inch, TH350 and engine. He’d owned tough stuff like Toranas, HQs and Harleys, but none of them were blown – so the rod had to have a blower, which he ordered from American Direct Parts.”

As the build got underway, Bear’s health further declined and he wound up hospital-bound. Despite being very weak, his spirits would always lift whenever update photos were pinned up on the ward wall. Unfortunately, Bear passed away not long after; at that stage the car was not yet a rolling body with an engine. His passing hit Josh hard.

Note how the sides of the front guards have been extended. “I wanted them to ‘tuck’ more tyre,” Josh explains. “I’m a mini-trucker; everything has to be low!”

“In hindsight, I wish Dad had just gone to Carsales or something,” he says. “That way he would have driven a hot rod before he died.”

There was one silver lining to come out of Bear’s passing – Josh became determined the rod would be something special to honour his dad. “One of the last things I told him is that I’d finish the car,” he says. “We sussed out shops we thought could finish it to the level we wanted. My mate Dawso introduced us to Craig Lockhart and JT Haken (aka ‘Bundy’) from East Coast Race Cars. Dawso helped throughout the build and I trusted his recommendations. Also a few of their cars had made magazine covers – done!”

Despite a long waiting list to get into East Coast, Craig and Bundy let the ’32 jump ahead in the queue.

Good luck finding the indicators; they’re slimline LED units hiding in the void between the body and the fuel tank. The trunk is a wonderful exercise in restrained elegance

“Bundy had lost his brother the same year I lost my dad,” Josh says. “He knew what I was going through and wanted to help. They were awesome. I wish I’d gone to them earlier. Back when I was working on my busted-arse HiLuxes, I never had the patience. Bundy and Craig were just the opposite; they were incredible.”

East Coast spent two and a half years on the project. Stepping up to an elite level meant many things had to be re-engineered, or redone altogether. One thing that didn’t need redoing was the exquisite headers and polished system by Bryan Pratt at Exhaust Innovations. After dry-assembling the car, East Coast (and Josh’s uncle) recommended Pat’s Pros Restos for paint. Unfortunately, they too had a six-month waiting list, which created a bit of a snag.

“I didn’t want the build to stall,” Josh says. “I was worried that if it stopped, it might end up languishing – or worse still, never getting finished at all.”

When Pat from PPR came to look at the ’32, he struck a deal with East Coast – PPR would strip the car at East Coast and take the driveline and chassis away to be painted. Then, all the bodywork and prep would be done at East Coast, with the body shipped to PPR just to get sprayed.

“The colour is one area where Dad and I locked horns,” Josh says. “He wanted it pastel mint green with white interior. I felt that with the billet wheels and all the bling, that wasn’t going to work. I chose the colour – simple and classy.”

The blown small-block was built for good looks and cruising. Mind you, any blown Chev is gonna have some grunt – Josh believes that once it’s fully sorted it should be stout enough to run an 11-second quarter

Once painted, the crew took the now-assembled chassis back to PPR, reunited it with the glistening body, then hauled it all back to East Coast for final assembly. The two shops worked together very well, and despite being a bit of a convoluted process, the results speak for themselves – BEARS 32 is stunning!

Cam Hayward from North Coast Custom Trim is responsible for the gorgeous interior. “He loved the car and understood what we were after,” Josh says. “Nothing too modern or flashy; just simple, nice and classy”

From his base in Brisbane, the ’32 has taken Josh all over – Melbourne, Forster, Sydney, Canberra, Mackay and Macksville. The blown 350 is anything but economical (who would have thought!), relegating the three-window to the trailer for the faraway shows. That said, the low-slung coupe has racked up 5000 kays in 12 months, along with an embarrassing run down the strip at the Nostalgia Drags.

“I never got it tuned,” Josh says. “It was running insanely rich, over-fueling and wouldn’t shift into second. Now that it’s tuned, the car really gets along well; it’s surprised me. Our best guess is it might get into the 11s. Even so, a lot of people commented they were surprised to see it at the drags. I’m like: ‘What’s the point if you don’t drive it?’”

Josh freely admits if wasn’t for the help and support of his friends, partner Tammi and his 12-strong family (especially brothers Chris and Andre), BEARS 32 would never have been.

“Dad was expecting the car to be built a lot quicker,” he says. “To build such a car from basically nothing in a year – it can’t be done. Looking at what East Coast, Pat’s Pros Restos and North Coast Custom Trim did, I know that if I’d taken on the project, did a bit at a time, it would’ve taken 15 years. The whole family is so happy it’s done.”

As for building a car to honour his dad – mission well and truly accomplished!


“To me, it’s the best car in the world, because of what it means to me,” Josh says. “Yet it really surprises me how well it does – the trophy cabinet is very healthy. It has qualified for MotorEx again; at Summernats it took out Top Closed Hot Rod, Top 10, and was top three in the fight for Grand Champion. It’s a hero car at a lot of the shows, like Yamba Rod Run and Gold Coast 600 – where it won Best Paint, Best Trim and Show Champion. At Severed Slam it took out Best Hot Rod and Down Town Kustoms’s Pick. This was huge to me; Graeme [Brewer] from Down Town also comes from mini-trucking. To come from the same background, with them now building the most incredible cars in the country, the fact that they chose BEARS 32 as their pick – at a mini-truck show – really made my day.”


Colour: Glasurit gold

Engine: 350 Chev
Blower: Weiand 6/71
Carbs: Holley, twin 600cfm
Heads: Edelbrock E-Street alloy
Crank: Scat 9000
Rods: I-beam
Ignition: MSD
Exhaust: Exhaust Innovations

Gearbox: TH350 with shift kit
Converter: B&M
Shifter: B&M Magnum Grip Street Bandit
Diff: Full-floater 9in, 31-spline axles, 3.25 gears

Rails: C & W
Front: I-beam with hairpins
Rear: Four-bar
Brakes: Discs (f & r)

Trim: Italian leather and alcantara
Carpet: German square-weave
Wheel/column: Billet Specialties/Ididit
Pedals: Billet Specialties Street Rod Oval
Gauges: Dolphin
Tunes: JVC CD/tuner, Alpine Speakers

Rims: Billet Specialties Legacy; 17×7 (f), 18×8.5 (r)
Rubber: Federal; 205/45/17 (f), 255/55/18